I began by running from shop to shop to sell flowers in Shimoga, says former athlete Satyanarayana

A former junior international athlete who rose through sheer dint of hard work, dedication and passion for athletics, Satyanarayana is now helping young athletes reach similar heights.

A sports administrator and athletics coach, Satya, as he is popularly known, is the secretary of the Karnataka Amateur Athletics Association (KAAA). The 47-year-old resident of Wilson Garden has been in the news lately as one of his wards, H.N. Girisha, won a silver medal at the Paralympic Games in London recently.

From humble beginnings

Satyanarayana’s story is a fascinating one: he hails from a lower-middle-class family in Shimoga, and is the son of a flower seller. “I think I began my career by running from shop to shop to sell flowers in Shimoga and then back home to get ready for school,” he reminisces. His career as an athlete began in 1980. “I took up athletics, because it was the most affordable sport for me…I did not need shoes or any other equipment; all you needed was a strong pair of legs and a big heart,” he says.

Satyanarayana specialised in cross-country and long distance running, his pet events being the 1,500 m and 5,000 m. He became a State junior champion and later a national junior champion, and set national records.

He was a medallist at the World Junior Athletics Meet at Seoul in 1984 and won the Prime Minister’s Medal for the Republic Day cross-country run in 1982.

He decided to call it a day when he realised that he could not keep pace with new stars such as Bahadur Prasad, who emerged on the Indian athletics scene in the early 1990s.

In 1993, after his retirement, Satyanarayana took on the role of administrator by becoming vice-president of the KAAA, and he later took over as secretary of the KAAA in 1996.

“Athletes face several injustices, and I thought the best way to set things right was by getting into administration of the KAAA”, says Satyanarayana.

Welcome steps

He brought about changes such as abolishing the participation fee for State athletes in national-level competitions and helped to create more district associations which, according to him, are managed solely by sportspersons. Satyanarayana also conducted several national junior and senior championships in the State, besides hosting the Asian Grand Prix in Bangalore in 2006 and 2010.

“My job is far from over. I wish to improve the quality of sports infrastructure in rural areas and provide more exposure for women athletes in the State, ” he says. He feels India has an abundance of talent and the potential to overtake China in sports, but lacks sufficient coaches who are well-trained. “In India, the coach is the physiotherapist, nutrition expert, manager and trainer, all rolled into one. His job is a very difficult one,” he adds. This is perhaps one of the reasons he took time to plunge into coaching, in addition to his demanding work as the chief administrator of athletics in the State.

He is pleased with Girisha’s performance at London Paralympics. “The boy has the talent and I trained him for one year and made sure that he stayed focussed on the job. He certainly deserves his success,” says Satyanarayana.

Sea change

It has been two decades since Satyanarayana moved into Wilson Garden, and the locality has seen a sea change. “In those days, Wilson Garden was associated with the crematorium, and was viewed as an area with anti-social elements. But now it has changed: the place has grown, the rich, middle-class and poor jostle for space here, and amenities such as the Hombe Gowda playground have added stature to the area,” he says. But he strongly feels that citizens should develop more civic sense and do their bit for community welfare. “After all, this is our place,” signs off Satyanarayana.

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